Edwards Charming like Clinton;
Kerry Articulate like Kennedy
Most communication researchers agree that more than 75% of the communication we do is nonverbal. Some say that at little as 7 per cent relates to the words we speak. Why is it then that political analysis after debates most often focuses on what the candidates say? Communication expert Dr. Carol Dunitz analyzes the nonverbal communication in the presidential debates to determine which candidates are making the more positive impression. She says that this time around it appears that the Democrats are in the lead.
"While it may have appeared that Cheney had the upper hand in the vice presidential debate," Dunitz says, "his nonverbal communication was far less polished than Edwards. Edwards smiled often and had excellent eye contact with the moderator, Cheney, and the audience. He maintained good posture throughout the debate. Although seated, he managed to have expressive movement with his upper body and head. He used more broad movements with his arms. When he wanted to be forceful about a point, he made a fist with his had while rocking his lower arm forward from the elbow.
"Cheney, the other hand, had poor posture throughout the debate. He leaned on his elbows and sat with his upper body perched forward for the entire time. His eye contact was poor and he looked down a great deal. He rolled his eyes, a rather immature manifestation, in response to a comment Edwards made about Halliburton. The only time he smiled or laughed was in response to something he perceived as disdainful of Edwards." Dunitz credits them both with being intelligent, thoughtful speakers.
She says this is not the case with the presidential race. "Kerry is far more eloquent that Bush. He also appears to be more knowledgeable and in command of information. On the nonverbal side, Dunitz cites Kerry's initial comfort with the audience. When he shook hands with Bush before the debates, he warmly touched Bush's back with his left hand. When the handshake was over, he looked directly at the audience and waved. In contrast, Bush turned his back on the audience and immediately proceeded to his lectern.
"Kerry's remarks were punctuated by a solid command of the facts, good eye contact and an understanding of how to place emphasis on what he felt was important," Dr. Dunitz remarks. "When he talked about war 'as a last resort,' he slowed the speed of his speech for emphasis. He appeared at ease, used good gestures and seemeds to take many notes while Bush is speaking. This transmitted the message that he was listening intently."
Dunitz is less impressed with Bush's communication skills. She talks about his constant smirking and his eyes, which seemed to blink uncontrollably during the entire debate suggesting he was very nervous. "He rarely looked at Kerry during the debate, and hammered out phrases like 'wrong place, wrong war, wrong time' until the audience wondered if he knew anything beyond propaganda with which he had been prepared."
Dunitz knows communication. Her new book, "Louder Than Thunder," which came out last month, is a parable that teaches how to communicate effectively. It demonstrates how understanding of human psychology and the ability to appear at ease enables a speaker to captivate the audience. The book has been endorsed by the Honorable Dennis Archer, Keith Crain, Publisher of Crain Communications, David Brandon, CEO of Dominos Pizza, and others.
Dunitz is a speaker, writer, producer and consultant who is the principal of The Last Word, a communication and creative services business in Ann Arbor , Michigan . The book is illustrated by award-winning artist Helen Gotlib. Canterbury & Parkside has published the book. It can be purchased at www.louderthanthunder.com . Books will be available shortly through bookstores and Amazon.com.